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University News

How to Ace the New Modalities

As classes take on various forms this fall, one professor offers advice for success

Posted in: Homepage News, University

A student wearing a mask sits alone in front of a computer at a library table
Finding a quiet place on campus to study or participate in online or HawkSYNC classes is one key to success when juggling different modalities while on campus.

Dear Students,

Like most aspects of our lives since March 2020, our recent learning and teaching experiences have changed as well. This year at Montclair State, our classes are taking place in five possible modalities so that faculty and students can continue to grow intellectually during the pandemic. While aspects of these formats will seem familiar to us all, taking classes in multiple modalities at once can present some challenges. As a professor who has taught in-person, online, and hybrid courses, here are some recommendations I have for navigating this new scenario.

Keep revisiting the syllabus

Becoming familiar with the course syllabus is a piece of advice that you’ve probably heard many times before. Especially if you are taking courses in more than one modality, you will need to keep track of the many different requirements that your professors have outlined. Common course elements such as participation and attendance may look very different in a HawkSYNC course than in a HawkLIVE course. The syllabus for your respective courses is there to help guide you. And remember, you can always ask your professor for clarification.

Find a planning method that works for you

As an experienced student, you probably have already come up with a method for keeping track of your assignments and deadlines. This shift to multiple modalities may require that you revisit that method and fine tune it. Keeping track of requirements can get tricky, especially if you are taking both online classes and in-person classes. Make sure to note how to hand in assignments and where to access readings for each course that you’re taking.

Find a place where you can work

Whether at home, in a dorm or on campus, finding a place where you can work free from distraction is key. For those of you juggling different modalities back to back on the same day, especially if any of those classes bring you to campus, find a quiet place on campus where you can use the wifi to attend your synchronous online classes as well. If you’re a commuter student whose wifi at home makes attending HawkSYNC or HawkLIVE classes difficult, there are lots of places on campus to work online.

Keep in regular contact with your professors

Your professors are dedicated to helping you succeed. Despite this, sometimes it is not apparent to us when students may have questions or be wrestling with a course concept. If a class is taking place online (HawkSYNC or HawkASYNC), it can be more difficult for professors to read the room and get a sense of whether clarification is needed. Reach out to us in class, during office hours, or on email to let us know that you have questions. We are here to help.

Be deliberate about connecting (online) with your peers

Universities are designed to bring people together in order to spur intellectual growth. Right now, however, we cannot gather together as we typically do. In your on-campus classes, you will only be able to engage with your peers from a distance. As a result, it may be more difficult to form relationships with each other. Take advantage of the many online and mobile spaces available to you–whether in an online class or outside of it–to connect with your peers. Some students have found success connecting through Zoom study groups, text group chats or Canvas discussion groups. Making friendships and learning from each others’ experiences is one of the treasures of the college experience; you just need to be more deliberate about that right now.

I wish you a wonderful semester ahead, fulfilling both intellectually and personally.

Professor Caroline Dadas, Director of First Year Writing
Department of Writing Studies
Montclair State University